LIFE A STATE OF DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITY. REV. H. MELVILL, M. A.
" Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." — CoLOSSiA S, i. 12.
You will often meet, in the perusal of Scripture, with references to our present state of being as most strictly preparatory to another. The general representation of the Bible appears to be, that this earth is not only a scene of probation, but that it is, yet further, a scene of moral discipline, and that by the schooling and training of which we are here made the subjects, we become fitted for the business and enjoyment of a liigher sphere. And there are few points in theology which, for practical worth, deserve more to be impressed on men"s minds than this — that, over and above the obtaining the right of admission to heaven, there must be obtained a meetness for its possession. It is quite evident, that, whatever the scenery and characteristics which we ascribe to the future home of the saints, we must suppose ourselves endowed with just those organs and faculties which shall be effectual for appropriating the beauty and the blessedness ; otherwise (to use a common expression) the whole would be thrown away on us, and we could be nothing advantaged by the splendid things and the lovely which might girdle us around. The most casual and thoughtless observer must often be struck with the adaptation of the earth to the creatures who inhabit it, or the adaptation of the creatures to the earth which they inhabit. It is this adaptation, which makes the eye, for example, a more powerful witness to the existence of a God than any one, or all, of those magnificent worlds which we see travelling the firmament. It is perfectly clear, that the eye has been constructed with a wise reference to the properties of light, or that the properties of light have been regulated with a view to the mechanism of the eye. If you did not think it incredible that the eye might be a chance production, or that light were a cliance production, you would require an infinitely greater degree of credulity before you could think that same chance production might be exactly fitted to the other chance production. The proofs which we search for when wishing to demonstrate from the visible creation the existence of a Creator are, evidences of design, seeing that, in proportion as we detect evidences of design, we charge absurdity on the theory that the world around us is not tlie work of an intelligent Creator : and it is impossible to imagine a greater evidence of design than is put forth by "the eye, inasmuch as if an organ were to be constructed which were adapted to the properties of light, the eye is precisely that organ ; so precisely indeed, that if in the least respect altered, it would become unfitted tor the purposes of vision. Thus in the mechanism of the eye, a mechanism which distinctly shews that the
278 I-IFB A STATE 01' DlsriPLl E FOR ETER ITT. eye was intended for the liglit, or the light for the eye, you have a greater M'itneps to the intelligence of the Creator, and you have a greater evidence of design, than astronomy can ever find in all her marchings over unlimited space. lint our husiness is simply with the adaptation of man to his present dwellingplace, or the adaptation of the dwelling-place to those who inhabit it. Tliis adaptation must force itself, we say, on the most unobservant. You will all admit, that man seems to have been made on purpose for the earth, or the earth for man. If our organs and feelings were not exactly what they are, or if the objects around us were not exactly what they are, we must believe, that in either case we should be quite unfitted for a residence upon earth. There must be the adaptation of the dwelling to the inhabitant, or of the inhabitant to the dwelling ; otherwise, however the bare existence may be possible, it is evident that enjoyment would be wholly out of reach. And certainly, observing how the adaptation lias been attended to in our present state of being, we might naturally conclude that it will not be neglected in our future state ; that, whatever the blessedncBS of heaven, we shall be required in some sense, to be made meet for its enjoyment. If lieavcn at all differ from earth, it is clear that man would gain little or nothing by tlie being transferred from the one to the other without the passing of any change on his powers and dispositions. You may tell me, that I am to be translated at death to another planet, and that I am there to mingle with another and a nobler order of beings ; but unless you also tell me of some great alteration which shall be ])assed upon myself, there is nothing to allure me in the opened-up prospect. If I M'ere suddenly placed on some far-off star, with exactly that apparatus of organs, and faculties, and feelings, which fits me for dwelling upon the earth and for companionship Mith men, the likelihood is that T should be so completely and in every sense a stranger, so altoo^ether out of my element, that it were not easy to imagine a greater dreariness and wretchedness than would fall to my portion. To tlie natural inhabitant of the star, its landscapes might be those of an exquisite and unrivalled loveliness,but possibly mine eye would be quite unadapted to the scenery, and there would be presented to me nothing but a blank or deformity : the natives of the planet might be charmed with the sounds which enchant Ihem with their melodiousness, but mine ear would not be constructed so as to receive these modulations, and the music would be to me only harshness and discord ; and however there might be circulating through all the hosts of the inhabitants the charm of a choice and intimate friendship, there would be nothing in connnon between me and them, and the difference in nature wovdd prove an insurmountable barrier to all tliat is pleasing and profitable in intercourse. Thus it is only so far as with change of scene, we suppose change of organs, tliere can be any thing attractive in the prospect of removal from the earth to a wholly different habitation. The idea of happiness pre-supposes necessarily that adaptation of the being and the sphere on which wo have spoken, and which is so dearly to be traced iti our ])resent existence, that unless there be this adaptation, yon must all perceive, that tlie dwelling to wliich M-e are transplanted might be one on wliicii God had expended far more of the riches of his
might and contrivance than on that which we left, and that its tenantry might vastly out-do iiuman kind in glory and intelligence; but that, in place of being ativantaged by the exchange, we sliouhl just pass into a condition of desolation and misery, such as we have never experienced while inhabiting this lower creation ow iJunigh we have sketched our iiiustration from the adaptati(Mi of ou
LIFE A STATK OF DISCIPM E FOR ETERMTY. 270 bodily organs and senses to tlie scenes in which tlie Almighty hath placed us, it will readily be admitted, that if the discourse turn on what may be called the moral adaptation, there will be equal force in the argument. There must be a correspondence between the dispositions and the pursuits; the objects presented as the sources of pleasure must be exactly those which the desires solicit; otherwise it were absurd to speak of happiness, or to expect anything else than uneasiness and dissatisfaction. If an unholy man Mere translated, with no assault made on his unholiness, to a state of being whose enjoyments were those of holiness, he would be in a position of the same kind as that of an individual who might be removed to another planet with the organs and senses which are only constructed for this. There would be manifestly just the same want of adaptation between the powers and objects of enjoyment, and consequently just the same feeling of having passed into an uncongenial clement, and of the thorough incapacity for entering into the employment, and sharing in the joyousness of those who M'ere at home in the new and strange territory. And thus it ought to commend itself to our minds, as one of the simplest of truths, that if we are to be admitted into heaven as the place of happiness, we must be subject while on earth, to the processes of a strictly moral discipline; and that inasmuch as, on our calculation, the occupations of the saints in their everlasting home would be such as required cleansed and remodelled dispositions — such, in short, as could never be pursued, unless there be a renovation of nature, it must be essential to Paradise proving anything else but a waste and a wilderness, that, in the language of our text, we be made " meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." ow, we think it our business, in addressing a mixed congregation, to bring to bear on the subject-matter of discourse a variety of argument, so that if possible there will be something to interest the different classes of the audience. Jf we could believe of this present assembly, that it were wholly composed of individuals receiving and acting on the scriptural doctrine, that this life is designed as a state of discipline for the next, we should feel that we had nothing to do but enlarge on St. Paul's words, and explain what that meetness is of which he makes mention. But we cannot put from us the conviction, that there are numbers of you who never regard the present world as a school in which men are to be trained for another ; and we feel that it would be vastly more
a moral benefit to each of our hearers if we could so place before them this fact, that it should commend itself powerfully to the understanding and conscience. We shall, therefore, in the first place, pursue yet further the train of thought which was opened by our introductory remarks ; in other words we shall examine the fairness, or rather the necessity, of the supposition that our present state of being is one of discipline and preparation for our future. We shall then, secondly, enquire into the justness of St. Paul's statement, that he had been made " meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." ow we have spoken of the adaptation wliich must subsist between the capacities of a being and his condition, in order to his being fitted for occupation and enjoyment. We suppose you will readily admit, that if our nature did not correspond to our external state, there Avould be no possibility of any such thing as human life, and human happiness. We will recur to our former illustration. We consider that no one will deny, that a man translated suddenly to another planet, and carrying with him only the organs and senses wliich are
280 LIFE A STATE OF DIRiJPLl E FOR ETER ITY. construclcil for this, would be incapable of enjoyment, and, in a very high probability, incai)ablc of life. Whether or no his powers would accommodate themselves by degrees to the new state of being, we are clearly unable to determine ; but if there were a difference between the planets, it is most evident that, unless thus accommodated, his powers could not qualify hiir f]T residence in the scene to M'hicli he had been transplanted. And when you admit this, you admit all which we are concerned to make good, namely, that previous discipline is necessary in order to the fitting the individual for the supposed cliano-e of habitation. If it be allowed that at^death they must pass into a new state of existence, may it not be said, that we shall then occupy circumstances similar to those of the man thus compelled to shift his dwelling-place to another ])lanet, and that unless, therefore, we have been in some way prepared for the scene upon which we are to enter, we shall be as unfit, whether for its joys or its business, as though transported without any change in our nature, to a world which is void of all objects answering to our appetites, senses, and affections ? We press this consideration on you as one >vhicb, if you will only allow it to Imve its just weight, is strikingly calculated to make you pause in your career of levity and worldly-niindedness. You will hardly so degrade yourselves as rational creatures as to profess a belief and expectation, that the future is to be in every respect like the prtsent ; so that hereafter there shall be the same objects of desire and pursuit as here allure and engross the great bulk of mankind. You never think of an avaricious man carrying with him across the border-line of eternity the passion for accumulation ; at least you never think of his carrying it with him as a passion in the gratification of which his delight is to lie: though it
is far enough from impossible that he will carry it with him as a passion whose unsatisfied gnawings shall constitute one grand item in his torment. You never think of the voluptuous man as following thut pleasure in the next Morld which he is seeking in this. If his voluptuousness go with him into the future, you think it must go, not as a principle in the obeying of which there shall be delight, but in the denying of which there shall be agony : and if you find yourselves necessitated to admit, that there must be at death such a change in human capacity and human condition, that present objects and desires will be no longer attractive, or, at least, no longer attainable, you cannot deny that, unless you experience a thorough alteration or renewal of character, you will be as distinctly incapacitated for the particular life of those who gain happiness hereafter, as you would be for a sphere of existence constructed for beings of a different nature. And what we wish you yet further to observe is, that over and above the ascertained necessity for a renewal of character, you are surrounded by evidences in the whole analogy of nature, that the present life is designed as a state ot discipline for the future. You observe men are not born into this world with all that equipment of energies which they will need when arrived at maturity : on the contrary, their infancy is a state of thorough weakness and feebleness ; and all the early years of life serve only for the culture and development of those faculties, both physical and moral, which they are to bring into exercise when taking their due place in human society. We are so accustomed to this appointment of Providence, that we give it not the attention which it eigually deserves. But you may at once perceive, that if there were in any case a deviation from this appointment, so that the human being were sent int(
LIFE A STATE OF DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITY. 281 the world in the full perfectness of manhood, so far as there be consciousness, such a Being-, in spite of all the energies with which he is endowed, would be well nigh as helpless and bewildered, and unfitted for the business of matured life, as thougli born an idiot. It is not enough that he possesses a certain amount of power, whether of mind or body, unless he has gone through the training of infancy and childhood, so that the power has been gradually acquired, or gradually brought out ; he would be, for a long while at least, nothing better than a nursling as to all the affairs of a stirring community, and be no more qualified, but far more dangerous, than the palsied in body, and the vacant in mind, for any of those offices which devolve in mature age on the ranks of society. Is it not then a most fair expectation, that, for as much as our present life may be considered to bear on our future exactly that relation which the infancy of this state of being bears to its manhood — is it not, we say a most fair expectation, that we are placed on earth in order that we may be prepared for a higher place in creation; yea, and that if there be a frittering away of the opportunities of that which we are bold to call the childhood of our immortality,
so that we pass into eternity uneducated for its lofty concernments, we shall be just in the condition of the full grown man launched upon life, without any of the teachings of instruction, or habit, or experience, and thus be fitted for nc other part throughout the broad ages of the immortality of our species, but that of furnishing an exhibition of moral shipwreck, and telling out to the intelligent universe, that the attempt to se* aside God's ordinance of discipline would issue in nothing but everlasting ruin — perfect in one thing, but that one thing wretchedness. We think it thus a simple, as well as a just idea, that our being placed in this life in a state of discipline for another, is a providential dispensation, just analogous to that in which, throughout infancy and childhood, we are placed in a state of discipline for mature age or manhood. The arrangement is wonderfully similar ; and even if we were devoid of direct information on so i/nportant and interesting a matter, it would be something better than an ingenious conjecture, if, from observing how in the first years of life, we are disciplined for the after, we suppose it to be the design of the Almighty, that the present theatre of our being M'ill serve as the school-house in which we may be trained for another and a nobler. And we cannot pass on from this illustration of our subject without endeavouring to bring it more home to your feelings. It is quite true that children, are made dependent on their parents, so that the parents instruct the children, and not the children the parents. But there is a beautiful reciprocity in this matter which ought not to be overlooked in Christian households. If you would only look on childhood as presenting an exact image of our race, viewed relatively to the after-state of being, you might yourselves be educated by all those processes of education which you either apply or observe as you Avatch the developement of powers, as you prescribe and enforce rules for correcting the judgment, improving the memory, and strengthening the principles, and thus labour at preparing the yet feeble and uncultivated mind for the duties and pursuits of the full-grown man. You may well consider that all which goes on under your guidance and inspection is just what ought to be going on with r^ard to yourselves. Infants as ye are, who have yet to come of age, you need the very same jdevelopement of powers, and the very same strengthening of principles, in order that, in tlie yet unreached maturity of being, you
JJ82 LIFE A STATE OP DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITY. may be fitted for that station in the grander state of the universe which God in his mercy designs for mankind. And, therefore, while teaching children, you ought to be yourselves taught ; there should flow in upon your soul from all that business of instruction by which you affect to fit the young for the countinghouse, for the bar, or for the pulpit, a continued memorial of your own moral position: and, viewing in the discipline which is needful for childhood, an
accurate monitor of that which is requisite for yourselves, as still only at the outset of your being, you should be stirred by the machinery of schools and universities to examining whether you advance in the training for immortality. It is thus that the benefits you confer would tell back upon yourselves, and that the children whom you instruct would act as your instructors. We cannot but think, that whenever God sits in judgment on the families of this earth, one aggravating circumstance in the long catalogue of sins shall be fetched from the consttint exhibition of their omu state and their own wants which is presented to men in the daily history of their households. Yea, we are bold to tiiink, that with hundreds and thousands the books which are opened, and out ofwiiich they shall be condemned, may just be the school-books of their children ; for, .if it be of the first moment to our well-being hereafter, that we receive and act upon the truth that our present life is designed as one of moral discipline for the future, then whatsoever in the arrangements of Providence is calculated to present this truth to our notice, and to force it on our attention, will undeniably prove the stoutest witness against us at tiie judgment. If we pass across this scene of probation without any striving after ineetness for theinheritance which may be expected in the ripe years of existence — and if childhood, in all its imperfectness and in all the apparatus which it needs for the educing latent powers and forming right principles, be an image the most accurate of man's estate in this life, when taken in conjunction with the sentiment of the text — who will pronounce it an over bold thought that education (we mean education in itself — the dealing with young years as the time of preparation for maturity) that the education of sons and daughters may bring down the very sternest of condemnation on the parents ; so that just because in applying himself to the education of the young, the man has had constantly before him a memento of what he ought to do as the heir of eternity? Wliy, sirs, the equity of his being given up to torment may be demonstrated from tiie fact, that he gave attention to the opening days of his offspring, and the simple, common-place circumstance that he sent his children to school, prove to tiie on-looking universe the thorough justness of God's dealings, when, as liaving neglected his own discipline for an endless hereafter, he is sent down to the prison and the fire at last. ow, it were not difficult to add other strong reasons why our present state of being should be regarded as one of discipline for our future. AVe ply you with facts, wliich, if the Bible were never put into your hands, give, at least, a high probability, that you are placed on earth as on a stage of pr(?paration for the perfect life of good men hereafter. You plainly admit the force of the argument that, Mhen the truth has been enforced by variety of methods, we shall 1)1- held tlie more inexcusable if it never become influential on our practice. We miglit thou pursue yet further our train of enquiry, and, multiplying our proofs from the analogy, that this life is the discipline time of the next, leave you nu)re 4nd more bound, as calculating beings, to strive after preparatior for tlie full manhood of our being.
LIFE A STATE OF DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITlf. 283 But we are pressed by the remainder of our subject, and have only time to apply practically our remarks on the adaptation which subsists between the nature oi man and the world in which he dwells, just as we have done those of the child in the season of education. We have not feared to introduce your children's books into the solemn proceedings of the judgment, and neither shall we fear to introduce your corporeal senses, and to assert you condemned by your taste, and your eye-sight, and your hearing. We dwelt on tiie correspondence which subsists between our organs and the objects which answer to them in the surrounding creation. If light were not exactly what it is, the eye would be useless ; and if the air were not exactly wliat it is, the ear would be useless : and from tliis correspondence we deduce a great moral lesson, even that there wijl be needed in our future state of being the same adaptation of the nature to the scene, which is so essential in our present to enjoyment, or rather to existence; and that consequently, forasmuch as we all expect a great change in scene, we are bound earnestly to seek a great change in nature, if we would not throw ourselves into eternity unprepared for all except its fires, which are quenched not. And what then shall bear a stronger testimony against us than the eye or the ear, if we strive not to be disciplined ere ushered into the new state of being? We can imagine to ourselves the man questioned at the judgment, as to his means of ascertaining Avhether God had placed him, while on earth, in a state of moral discipline. He may have had slight opportunities of what is termed instruction ; but we can believe him compelled by the apparatus of his senses, to hold that he might have ascertained the character and design of his earthly condition. These senses assured him that he was constructed with a distinct view to his residence on earth, and that, if differently constructed, such residence woidd have been impossible: they told him, therefore, in language which, if misunderstood at all, must have been wilfully misunderstood, that if he were to find happiness in a different sphere of being, he must enter upon it with a different state of powers ; and thus th-ey urged him to enquire after the mode of a moral renovation, that thorough change of nature, apart from which they seem to tell him, he must look for no enjoyment in a thorough change of dwelling. It is enough then, in order to his being brought in as guilty of wilfully throwing away opportunities of discipline if unprepared for eternity, that the ear shall tell how it received the modulations of the air, and gave him notice of varieties of sound, and the eye testify liow it gathered the rich sliowers of the stinliglit, and enabled him to take the sweep of the panorama of creation. And thus wlicn he stands in his resurrection body before his Judge, the organs of that body, liowever altered by the process which has made them imperishable, and however abused whilst he lived neglectful, shall witness so strongly to the fact of warning having been given as to our present state being a state of moral discipline, tliat, with tlie approval of all orders of intelligence, he will be condemned as liaving neglected to seek meetncss for the inheritance of the saints in light.
We turn now to the second division of our subject. Up to this point we have been engaged with the shewing the fairness, or rather the necessity, of the supposition, that in this life we are in a state of moral discipline for the next. We are now to assume, that such is the character and design of our present condition, and briefly to examine into the justness of St. Paul's statemfjuf. with respect to himself and the Colossians, that God had made tiicm " meet for the inheritance of the saints in liglit." ,
284 LIFE A BTATE OP DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITT. We generally speak of preparation for heaven as a gradual thing; and, without question, there is a sense in which in the proportion that they grow holier, and more full of God's love, true believers become more fit for the enjoyment of the kingdom. But since St. Paul speaks of the meetness as already acquired — " AVho hath made us meet," we cannot well understand our text as referring to tliat gradual preparation which is effected by the sanctifying influences of the Spirit. VYe are confirmed in this idea by observing, that it is not to the Third, but to the First Person in the Trinity that the Apostle here ascribes the preparation : " Giving thanks to the Father who hath made us meet." Undoubtedly the same thing is often in Scripture referred promiscuously to the three persons in the Trinity. Thus, though it is especially the office of the Spirit to sanctify, Ave find St. lude addressing his epistle to those that are " sanctified by God the Father." And, indeed, whilst holding the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, we think it nothing more than a natural consequence on the unity of these persons, that, in some places, the Bible shall speak of a thing as done by one of these persons, and yet in another place ascribe that same thing to another. We do not, then, conclude on the mention of "the Father" in our text, that the Apostle had allusion to the gradual preparation which is the work of the Spirit. But when we combine this mention of the Father, and not of the Spirit, with the use of the past tense, with the assertion, in other words, that the work is already done, and not still in progress, we seem warranted by the two circumstances, if not by either one singly, in considering the meetness here spoken of by St. Paul, as not that which is the result of continued sanctification. And the truth of this matter will appear to be, that as soon as a man is eflfectually called of God, he is made meet for the inheritance ; but that, by remaining on earth after conversion, and advancing in the graces which belong to Christianity, he becomes — we do not say more meet for the inheritance, but fitted for a higher station, and a more distinguished blessedness among the children of the first resurrection. If the man die so soon as justified, he would possess the inheritance ; and, therefore, it must follow, that in being justified a man is also made meet. But this statement in no degree militates against the worth or necessity of sanctification ; inasnmch as if there be, as we believe, varieties in future happiness, the several portions of the heirs of the kingdom shall be adapted to the scale of their present attainments. We suppose, then, that the meetness for the inheritance is acquired at the same time
with the title to that inheritance: the Apostle, in fact, makes the two things contemporaneous, for while he speaks of "the Father who hath made us meet," he adds, "who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." ow, unquestionably, th " deliverance from the power of darkness," and " the translation into thi kingdom of Cliri.'it," arc immediate results, or rather constilucnt parts, of tha change which wc define as " conversion," or " renewal ;" and whereas St. Paul places the mcetnoss for the inheritance, even before the deliverance and the translation, we shjdl clearly not be warranted in considering that meetness as acquired long after, but must at least regard the fitness for heaven as wrought out at the same time with the renovation of nature. In simple truth, it is by having our nature renewed as it is at conversion, that we are " made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.'' " If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature : old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.'' The change effected is precisely similar to that which would be effected on the body.
LIFE A STATE OF DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITY. 285 if the organs and senses which are adapted to this earth were so remodelled and modified as to become adapted to another section of the universe. The unconverted soul can understand, and feel, and taste, and enjoy, the things only of this world ; the converted soul can see, and feel, and taste, and enjoy the things of another world. Sin was a deliglit to him, but now it is loathed ; God was forsaken, but now he is sought ; holiness was disliked, but now it is desired ; there was no form nor comeliness in Jesus, but now he is " the chief among ten thousand, 'and the altogether lovely." Thus the result is the same as if you supposed a complete change in the whole apparatus of powers, and senses, and affections; and the communicated organs are manifestly those which will be required in order to enjoyment, if not to existence, in the inheritance of light. They are the organs which enable men to discern the beauty of that heaven wherein dwelleth righteousness, and to hold communion with beings who delight in performing God's will. They qualify their possessors to find pleasure in those exercises of praise which constitute so much of the future employment of the saints, and to feel lore towards all who bear the same image, or who possess the same kingdom. We do not indeed say, that at the instant of conversion these organs will come into full play and exercise ; we only say that these organs are then imparted, or that the old organs are then so renewed as to become adapted to the scenes and occupations of heaven. And this is all that is required in order to the making good the assertion, that the Father has made us meet. The infant, as soon as born, is meet for residence on earth, seeing that it brings with it an equipment of senses and powers, which, though weak and undeveloped, are those that are needed by the dwellers in this terrestrial creation. And in like manner, the justified man, so soon as justified, is meet for the inheritance in heaven, seeing that the renewal of nature of which he has been the subject, implies or includes the communication of (spiritual affections and faculties, which require, however,
to be drawn out and strengthened, and are precisely those wliich were always to be found at home in the scenery, and amongst the inhabitants of the iuTisible •world. We still keep fast to the illustration of wliich we have availed ourselves through the whole of our discourse. If one of us were about to be translated to a distant planet, where the light, and the air, and the rain, and the gravitation, and the tenantry, were all broadly different from what they are in our own, the senses and the powers of such an individual must underg© a great change ere he could be fitted for the new and far-off dwelling-place. And if there be given him, through some supernatural operation, in exchange for his present apparatus of organs, just that state of powers which would enable him to appreciate the grandeur and loveliness of the distant domain, and to enter rejoicing into riie pursuits and pleasures of its unknown relations, we should not hesitate to say of the individual, that he was made meet for the planet, and that he was ready for the translation: and it is precisely the same with reference to the fitness for heaven. We look on the unconverted man, engrossed and delighted ■with what is earthly and perishable, and we feel that the transferring this man to heaven without a renewal of nature, would be transferring him to a new world •with organs and senses adapted only to the old. If he could exist he would find no enjoyment^in heaven, any more than the man whose eye-sight, and hearing, and touch, and scent, and taste, had nothing correspondent to them in the creation which he was sent to inhabit. But let the man be converted, and old things are passed away ; he has new hopes, new fears, new desires, new feelingsHe sees a beauty in holiness, and therefore he has the eye-sight of heaven ; he
286 LIFE A STATE OF OISCIPLI K FOR ETEUMTV. hears a melody in tlic Gospel, and therefore he has tlie Itearing of heaven j nw hand handles the word of life, and therefore he has the touch of heaven ; itiere is fragrance to iiini in the sacrifice of Ciirist, and therefore he has the scent of heaven ; he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and therefore he has the taste of heaven. Thus all his senses — if it he lawful to define the spiritual by the corporeal — all his senses are adapted to the inheritance of the saints. And if now translated to that inheritance, he is not a man removed from one world to another, with a set of powers belonging to the old, but not fitted for the new : he is indeed a man whose dwelling-place is shifted, so that all around liim differs from his original home; but he carries with him organs which are demanded by the residence, and therefore will feel himself in his element so soon as ushered on the inheritance. And since it is the very meaning of conversion, that a man is so born again, that the powers with which the soul is equipped, passed from adaptation to this life, to adaptation to the next life — from all that fitness to the earthly, which lies in the holiest attachments, for a fitness to the heavenly — and since, we say, there is necessary to conversion all these changes in our spiritual organs, may we not contend, that, as soon as a man is called and justified by the Father, he is prepared for the invisible world, just as the man who has fresh apparatus and senses for another and a wholly different planet; and
might not then St. Paul, speaking of himself and other renewed men, say with perfect accuracy, " Giving thanks to the Father who hath made us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light?" And now there remains nothing, but that we associate the two parts of our discourse ; and that having shewn you in tlie first place, that you are to regard the present as a state of discipline for the future, and, in the second, that the required fitness for the change is found in the renewal of our nature by conversion, we exhort you to improve the day of probation, by seeking to be made new creatures in Christ. We began with assuming the thorough reasonableness of the expectation, that we are placed on earth in order to gain fitness for a higlier stage of being ; and we have now shown you, that this fitness is imparted to all who submit themselves to the conditions of the Gospel. The inference from these shewings is clear and unavoidable, that, perceiving ourselves in a state of moral discipline, we close thankfully with tliose ofl'ers of mercy; and ensure, whiit we cannot elsewhere find, such improvement of the estate, that we shall be schooled for immortality. The Christian's life will, indeed, as we have already observed, be throughout a course of preparation for heaven ; but he is made meet at the outset, though in all after stages the moral discipline will be so powerfully applied, that he sliall work out " a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." It is tlien only requisite tluit the man be converted; atid, whilst immediately prepared if tiie change were immediate, he will pass his days in that training which is the design of his present condition ; and thus living as an immortal creature, fulfil that great end of his being which he is able to ascertain as a rational. Let those, therefore, who would give great weight to the suggestions of reason, hearken to those suggestions as they admonish them to submit to Revelation. Reason confesses our state to be one of moral discipline ; but she cannot n^ aster tlie problem — how may we so pass through it, as to be fitted for a state of happiness and joy. Baffled by the disorders and intricacies of the existing Jj^wcnsation, she can discover no mode by which the corrupt can be schooled
i.'PB A STATE OP DISCIPLI B FOR ETER ITY. 287 into purity, and the depraved prepared for the enjoyment of rigliteousness. And when, thereiore, Revelation comes forward, sustained by the evidenct; whic' reason approves, and presenting the intelligence which reason solicits, let it not be thought that you act as disciples of reason unless you thankfully submit yourselves to tlie discipline enjoined by Revelation. Believing in Christ so that you receive him into the heart by faith, thus, and thus alone, can fallen creatures hope for meetness to partake the inheritance of the saints in light. May we all seek this meetness ; knowing, that if not sought, and if not found,
we must be landed in eternity meet only for inheritance of the reprobate in darkness. As born of the flesh we are meet for the heritage of cloud and tribulation ; but it is only as born of the Spirit that we can be meet for (he heritage of sunshine and gladness. Beautiful are the words (would that their beauty might be recognized and felt by all !) " Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." " Partakers.'''' othing of solitude, nothing of loneliness: it shall heigliten our bliss that we share it with a multitude ; that we walk not the magnificent outspread, a scattered few, an inconsiderable remnant of the mighty tribes ; but that, surrounded by a company which no man can number, in our every joy myriads have companionship, and our every note of praise is echoed back by ten thousand times ten thousand voices. " Partakers of the inheritance.'" '• If children," says the Apostle, " then heirs, heirs of the Father ; yea, joint-heirs with Christ." Admitted into the fellowship of God by adoption, we become possessed of all the privileges of sons. And now, though undoubtedly undeserving, having no merit in ourselves which we can present for a title ; we have so inalienable a right as members of Christ to the glories of immortality, that we have only to wait till death awaken us to joy, and we shall enter, like the undoubted heir who has completed his minority, on the vast and splendid possession. " The inheritance of the saints in light.'''' " Light." The shadows of the temporal dispensation shall have passed away, and the whole plan of the Creator's dealings be spread before the admiring saints, one blaze of beauty. " Light." The discrepancies of Providence, the seeming contradictions in God's government, the obscurities which are caused by our knowing only in part — all these shall have been removed, and, while appearing on the lustres of eternity, have left no dark spot in the map of time. " Light." It shall not be the brilliancy of the material sun wliich makes the future landscape indescribably radiant: the future hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. * Light." The saints themselves, purged from all that is corruptible — the purified soul in an imperishable body, shall be wondrously luminous : even now, as St. Paul expresses it, they shine as lights in the world ; but hereafter perfectly conformed to the image of Christ — of whom we are told, that at his transfiguration (which exhibited what humanity sliall be when glorified) his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light — they shall be conspicuous amongst all orders of intelligence, transformed into glowing and beaming likenesses of Him whose radiations occupy the universe. " Light, " says the Psalmist, " is sown for the righteous :" and the seeds of tlie sparkling harvest are deposited in their souls while working out salvation. Holiness is the moral light, and the germ of heavenly purity is the element of heavenly splendour. Let it now then be our endeavour to walk as children of light, having no fellowship witli the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reproving them. There must be (and we press this -igain and a^Mn
288 LIFE A STATE OF DISCIPLI E FOR ETER ITY.
on your notice,) there must be a correspondence between the scene and the creature. The inheritance is one of light, and therefore, the heir also, in the words of St. Paul, must be " light in the Lord." We will aim, then, God willing, so to improTe this state of discipline, that, casting off the ignorance and corruption in which we are naturally enveloped, we may at length be called with those righteous of whom Christ said, they shall " shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father." 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
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